Religious Language

“When people speak of “the living God” they do not simply want to say … that he differs from a lifeless body.” Aquinas

Religious language is often paradoxical – “God is x, but is not x”. The objects (things referred to) of some religious language are said to be beyond human experience – “God” for example. Religious language is often anthropomorphic – which is problematic if we are referring to something truly infinite. As Flew notes, words ‘refer so entirely and particularly to human transactions … To try to apply them to something which is not an animal at all cannot but result in a complete cutting of the lines of communication.’ (Davies 140). Swinburne is able to reject this move with a dualist definition of ‘person’. As a theistic personalist he is able to claim, with Scotus, that ‘unless there is a reason to suppose otherwise, clearly we ought to assume that theists are using words in their ordinary mundane senses.’ (Davies 142). If we are unwilling to take this escape route we must take Flew’s point a little more seriously.

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